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Charles McPherson "Reverence"

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Legendary alto saxophonist Charles McPherson makes his Smoke Sessions debut with an inspired new album, Reverence, dedicated to Barry Harris, captured in front of a live audience at Smoke Jazz Club and featuring his quintet of Terell Stafford, Jeb Patton, David Wong, and Billy Drummond 

Never mind Webster’s – how does Charles McPherson define reverence? “To me, it means deep respect and admiration,” explains the legendary saxophonist, who chose the word as the title for his breathtaking new album, Reverence. “There’s a nostalgic element to it, but you can certainly revere somebody that's here right now as much as you can have reverence for the past. It definitely describes everything that I feel about the musicians I’ve worked closely with throughout my life, all of whom I respect musically and artistically.” 

“I really like the language of bebop, which allows for a broad range of expression,” he explains. “But I'm not a civilized bebopper – I'm a wild bebopper, and I might go anywhere from that jumping-off spot. I’m 84 years old now, so the core remains the language of bebop, but I do it in today’s world with today’s players.” Born in Joplin, Missouri, McPherson spent his formative years in the rich jazz city of Detroit, where he was mentored by the late Barry Harris. 

Reverence was born shortly after Barry Harris passed away in late 2021. Harris was a pivotal figure for McPherson, not just as a musician but as a person. In light of his recent passing, Reverence is particularly dedicated to his memory. “Barry was my mentor and my teacher for a long time,” McPherson recalls. “I owe a lot to him. He always told me that there was more to this music than just playing the horn – you actually have to know how to think to be able to do this well. In order to be hip in Detroit at that time you had to know about Bird, but you had to know about Schopenhauer, Miró, Gerald Massey, and Immanuel Kant as well. That opened a lot of doors for me.” 

But McPherson did set out with the high regard in which he holds Harris in mind and entered into the recording with a sense of reverence both for his longtime mentor and collaborator, as well as for the younger musicians whom he enlisted for the session. 

The title of Reverence may be intended to reflect the way that McPherson feels towards his late bandmates; it also vividly captures the deep respect felt towards the master saxophonist by his current bandmates – not to mention generations of jazz fans. More than six decades into a remarkable career, few command and deserve our reverence quite like Charles McPherson.

Charles McPherson, alto saxophone 
Terell Stafford, trumpet 
Jeb Patton, piano 
David Wong, bass 
Billy Drummond, drums

Charles McPherson